Today sees eight clubs look to continue their journey to the SSE Scottish Cup Final set to be held on Sunday 24th November at Tynecastle Stadium home of Heart of Midlothian.
It’s a quarter-final draw rippled with intrigue. SWPL1 Rangers travel to SWFL1 North leaders Aberdeen to face a Dons side that has already shocked SWPL1 Spartans and SWPL2 Kilmarnock en route to the last eight. Defending champions Hibernian, who are looking for a fourth consecutive Scottish Cup triumph, host SWPL2 leaders Hamilton Academical on the back of a 4-1 Champions League defeat to Slavia Prague and SWFL1 South side Queen’s Park will hope to continue their fairytale run by shocking SWPL1 Motherwell at Ravenscraig.
The stand out fixture of the round though sees Celtic host Glasgow City at K Park as the top two sides in the SWPL go head-to-head for the fourth time this season. Here at Leading the Line, fresh off going 6 for 6 for in our danger player assessment of both Hibs and City’s Champions League opponents, we’re previewing this afternoon’s clash.
Their Scottish Cup Journey so far.
It’s been fairly emphatic progress for both sides with an aggregate score of 18-0 and 36-0 respectively. Celtic started their cup campaign with a 16-0 win away to SWFL Divison 2 West/Central side West Park United. Five goals from Kathleen McGovern and four from German forward Josephine Giard the stand out performances in what was a routine victory for Eddie Wolecki Black’s side.
Their fourth round tie against SWPL2 St. Johnstone proved to be more strenuous though and it wasn’t until the 61st minute that substitute Chloe Craig would score the first of two goals to put her side on the way to a 2-0 victory at K-Park as the Perth side provided stubborn resistance.
For City things couldn’t have been more straightforward. In round three they battered unbeaten at the time SWFL Division 2 – South East/Central table toppers Edinburgh Caledonia 16-0 in the capital before putting twenty past SWFL Division 2 – North/East Dundee City at Petershill Park.
Whilst there may be little to be gleamed from their Scottish Cup performances to date, the head-to-heads have biggest to be found with a feeling amongst the Celtic contingent that they are getting ever closer to their all conquering city rivals. Their first meeting of the season in the Quarter-Final of the SWPL Cup seemed to suggest that Scott Booth’s side were set for another season of dominance as a double from Clare Shine and goals from Hayley Lauder and Megan Foley ensured a comfortable 4-0 win for the home side, with the opening three goals coming in a nine minute first half spell.
They faced each other at Lennoxtown the following month in the league and although City would be victorious again there was a sense of missed opportunity for the Hoops. Top scorer Kathleen McGovern had given the home side the lead before seeing red on the 50th minute for a reckless challenge on Leanne Crichton. With the numbers advantage City were able to turn the tide as they would first equalise via an unfortunate Emma Black own goal before Republic of Ireland international Shine would again get on the scoresheet to hand the league leaders a 2-1 win.
Their most recent clash last month saw City run out 1-0 winners at Patershill Park, a result that all but sealed a 13th consecutive SWPL crown for the home side. It was Shine again who was the difference maker as her excellent 20 yard finish gave Megan Cunningham in the Hoops goal little chance.
Both sides come into the game in rare form. City’s only defeat this season has come in the final of the SWPL Cup to Hibernian and even then that was a game decided on penalties after 120 gruelling and goalless minutes.
Celtic will be looking to make use of home advantage as they go in search of a seventh consecutive home victory with them coming off the back of a 7-0 victory over 7th placed Forfar Farmington in the league last week and in total they have scored 13 unanswered goals in the three games since that 1-0 defeat to Sunday’s visitors on the 18th August.
Clare Shine v Kelly Clark
It will be interesting to see if Shine starts on Sunday having began both of the previous two rounds on the bench and she was also part of the side that played in City’s 1-0 victory over Chertanovo in Russia this week, however, her form in this fixture surely can’t be ignored.
Shine has been the thorn in Celtic’s side all season having scored four goals in three games including the winner in their last two meetings. The Irishwoman who returned to City this season has 11 league goals to her name with only strike partner Kirsty Howat having scored more.
Celtic captain Clark has grown into her role over the course of the season emphasised by her performances against Old Firm rivals Rangers in both their previous meetings. She’s strong in the tackle and in the air but, as Shine has shown in their contests to date, she can be outmanoeuvred on the deck. The 25-year-old has matured under the guidance of Eddie Wolecki-Black and has shown that she can be the player for the big occasion but she will have to be on top form to contain City’s own big game hunter.
Kathleen McGovern v Leanne Ross
Youth vs. Experience is the order of the day at the other end of the park. This has been a breakout season for McGovern with the Scotland U19 international having claimed the starting striker berth as her own having so far scored 7 league goals in the SWPL as well as being responsible for five of the goals during Celtic’s 16-0 rout of West Park United in the third round. Her goal against City during the 2-1 defeat in April showed McGovern at her clinical best whilst she has a physicality that belie her tender years and her battle with the vastly experienced Ross will be one to keep an eye on.
For Ross, there is very little, if anything, left to achieve in the realms of Scottish football and her transition from midfielder to central defender in recent seasons has been a seamless one. Her positional past means she can still bring the ball out of the defence as well as anyone and her composure on it will be relied upon as Celtic will look to lean on the high press that has served them so well during their current dominant run of home form.
Natalie Ross v Leanne Crichton
As much as goals win games it is perhaps this boiler room battle that will really make the most telling contribution as to which side will come out on top this Sunday afternoon. Put simply if Ross is playing well then Celtic will tend to play well too. Her eye for a pass is often key in setting the likes of the dangerous, but sometimes enigmatic, Sarah Ewens off down the wings whilst she is also comfortable bringing the ball forward herself and her efforts have been rewarded with four league goals.
In Crichton though she faces one of the most formidable midfield operators in the country. The Scotland international showed during the opening half of that fateful World Cup group game against Argentina just how much quality she possesses and whilst her role for the national side was primarily to act as designated destroyer, domestically she is the driving force behind many of City’s attacks from the centre of the park. The best example of this perhaps being her performance during the second half comeback win against Celtic at Lennoxtown with her surging runs dragging her side forward and keeping the pressure on weakened opponents. It’s a contest that has the potential to be fascinating as the game progresses.
Celtic, more than any other side in Scotland at present can match up physically to their Glasgow rivals, and their recent run of impressive home form will see them come into the game in optimistic mood especially as results continue to tighten between the two sides.
That being said though this is a relentless City side at the moment with a serious cup winning itch needing to be scratched. City may just have the edge as both sets of XI’s take to the field but it is the strength from the bench that could really change the game in their favour as players such as Jordan McLintock and Megan Foley have often entered the fray and made the difference over the course of the season.
Scottish Cup Quarter Final Fixtures
Hibernian v Hamilton Academical, 1pm, Ainslie Park
Aberdeen v Rangers, 1.30pm, Aberdeen Sports Village
Celtic v Glasgow City, 2pm, K Park
Motherwell v Queen’s Park, 2.30pm, Ravenscraig
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